Aisling on beauty: ‘Private labelling’ should be a matter of public record

A lot of Irish make-up brands won’t admit they pick their ranges out of a catalogue. There is nothing wrong with this practice, but it needs to come out of the closet

In Ireland we have lots of excellent home-grown skincare companies. However, no make-up or colour cosmetics are made here.

Instead we have plenty of private labelling – also know as white labelling – a term used to describe generic cosmetics that are labelled for a brand. The brand has not made these cosmetics. The have ordered them from a catalogue or perhaps chosen them from a site such as Alibaba, which sells cheap, generic make-up and packaging.

Companies including Fuschia or Blank Canvas both sell private-label products; they do not make their own cosmetics. At a push they might order something slightly different to a catalogue version. So do many other people or brands. Your favourite make-up artist who suddenly developed a range of bespoke cosmetics, or the hairdressers who have suddenly begun to sell their own lipsticks? Private label. Coastal Scents, although not Irish, is perhaps the most famous example of this practice.

Generic cosmetics are produced in Asia and other places around the world. They are branded for the buyer company, which then instantly has a complete make-up line. If you ever see a company selling that blockbusting 88 shade eyeshadow palette, you know it has come straight from Alibaba and has been bought in bulk cheaply.

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Many companies don’t even bother to change the generic name. For example, google the name Velvet Veil, which is Fuschia’s primer. You’ll find lots of other brands selling the exact same product.

I think that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with private labelling. And there is certainly nothing wrong with turning a profit. The problem is that the companies who sell these generic products won’t admit to it. They did finally admit it to me, but only because they know I have been on their case for years and understand exactly how their business works.

This I think is totally counterintuitive. Such companies, having built a brand name and worked hard to tailor their collections, should trust their customers. They should not try to pull the wool over their eyes and pretend they have manufactured it themselves.

Of the companies I contacted for clarity on this matter, only Suzanne Jackson with her SoSu range instantly confirmed that yes, it is a private collection label. Good for you, Jackson. This won’t hurt your business one bit. It demonstrates that you have confidence in your product selection and the nous to understand your market. People buying your brand because they respect your choices.

Now maybe the others will come out of the closet too.

  • amcdermott@irishtimes.com 
  • Twitter @aismcdermott